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  1. #1
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    Default Philosophical stuff

    This thread is

    for anyone who might be interested in it. I make no presumptions anyone will be. It has to do with phenomena and

    ideas, especially those important to discussions here on the forum.
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 10-13-2005 at 04:02 PM.
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  2. #2
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    Responsibility is one

    such idea, and phenomenon.

    It is an idea, in the form of a belief that we are "responsible for our


    Responsibility is also a real phenomenon, in that we experience a stream of life, live a stream; and

    have no control over many aspects of it. We are constantly shaping it, but can never wrap ourselves around it

    completely. On the other hand, we can often have some aspects of it somewhat in our control. This is our data.

    It' s good to be focused on what we can control, to whatever extent. But "responsibility" is a metaphor,

    a good myth to live by.

    It is prudent to act as if we had control over everything.

    But we don't. Prudence

    might be easier if we lie to ourselves here. But prudence isn't wise at the expense of wisdom.

    Compassion is

    one of the things that comes out of acknowledging the difference between the myth and the source experience.

    Humility is another.

    Interestingly, prudence is even improved by being wise prudence, indicating it works better

    as a form of wisdom than standing on its own as an idea. How? It's improved by the extra practicality that comes

    from acknowledging the mythal nature of the idea we use to help us achieve prudence, to effectively mold our lives

    the way we intend to. I know I won't always act as I should, or act with integrity, and can use that knowledge to

    my benefit.

    Even within the things we think we should have control over, at our best, we are not who we want to

    be, and we do not live by what we believe.

    Tonight I did not go work out, For example, even though that is

    inconsistent with my beliefs and ideas. There are a variety of reasons for that, like failing to locate gym

    shorts. It is metaphorically true that I am 100% responsible for not working out and whatever else I did tonight.

    But there is no way to prevent something like that from happening again. I guarantee you that tomorrow there

    will be something, at some time, I should be doing but won't be. The same can be said for lots of my beliefs about

    who I am, and how what I believe would be reflected in actions. On the other hand, it will be practical for me to

    just assume I am responsible for not working out tonight.

    But no one I've ever known could always act like they

    believed. It would be both effortless and pointless to look for research to bear this out as typical of


    Compassion, in particular, comes partially out of that understanding that we are, ultimately, fallible

    "losers" in the responsibility "game", where "game" is a compatible metaphor for living.

    The mythic nature of the

    idea of responsibility is typically underacknowledged, or overlooked in dissussions about it, in various


    What might be some consequences of that sort of ommission?
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 10-13-2005 at 03:47 AM.
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  3. #3
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    Good morning Doc,

    Gee, is

    it any surprise that we are going to disagree on this one? In this case it is probably perspective more than

    anything else that we will disagree on.

    We are responsible for ourselves and the results we get in our lives.

    First: Agreed, you cannot control random chance. But, through careful thought and planning you can make chance

    work for you in a lot of cases. Could we call that prudence? And whatever happens, how you deal with the vageries of

    chance is a matter of your choices. In every case, once something occurs and you act or don't act on it, that is

    your choice and you are responsible for your choices. But let us not confuse fault and responsibility. If a tire

    blows out on the freeway resulting in a multi car accident, it is the fault of the tire. Checking the tires before

    getting in the car and driving 75 mph was your responsibility.

    In other words, if you decide to cross the street

    you have the responsibility to look for oncoming vehicles. If you step in front of an oncoming car it is your fault.

    It was your responsibility to look first. That doesn't really clarify it but its a start.

    Let me rephrase

    something you said. We are responsible for how we live our lives. It isn't a matter of whether or not we are

    responsible for our actions because in the final analysis we are. It is a matter of whether or not we accept the

    responsibility for our actions. You didn't go to the gym to work out? I assume somebody chained you to a chair and

    didn't allow you to go? Did something else prevent you from going? If so, what was it? If not, why didn't you go?

    If you made the choice to not work out, no matter how you try to get around it, it was your decision and the

    responsibility for that decision rests solely on you.

    A bit more complicated one: I am quite proud of my little

    business and take a lot of the credit for what it is. I made the choice to leave my nice secure corporate job and

    take a huge risk with everything I owned. I did it in the full knowledge that more than 75% of all new businesses

    fold. Before embarking on this path I took a long, careful look at it, made plans and considered contingencies. That

    was to manage random chance to the best of my ability.

    Without going into a lot of detail, I won the bet. In the

    process I lost several things that were precious to me. Had I failed completely it would have been my responsibility

    for the failure because I made the choice with the best knowledge I had available to take that risk. If I had ended

    up homeless it would have been because I made the choice to embark on this path. I lost some things because I made

    the choices I made knowing fully well that the possibility for those losses was there. It was my responsibility.

    Once I made the choice to embark on this path, it was my responsibility to do everything I could, to the best of

    my ability to make it work. I learned skills I did not have before, I even got involved in pheromones as part of

    following that path. I was looking for another tool I could use to tilt the odds in my favor.

    As a direct result

    if my actions, I have a successful little business. My domestic relationship is a product of those efforts because I

    persued a source of income to help my business and chance led me to meet many people. Had I decided to sit in my

    office and wait for business to come to me, or had things gone sour for any other reason, my residence under a

    bridge would have equally been a product of my decisions and my personal responsibility.

    In other words, yes you

    can live by your beliefs if you choose your beliefs and act on them in a rational manner. Take your missing gym

    shorts. I assume that you put them someplace or was there some other force at work here? If a gremlin did not come

    in during the night and steal them, where were they and how did they get there?

    There's a book I've read a few

    times you might want to look at. I think its called Intentional Living. It could be Living Intentionally. I loaned

    it out recently and haven't bothered to ask about it yet..
    Last edited by belgareth; 10-13-2005 at 07:52 AM.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  4. #4
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    A ground rule: First of

    all, I am writing this post only with the assumption that we both accept, fully, that either or both of us could

    well be wrong in many ways, in what we currently think, and that we are willingly making our beliefs vulnerable to a

    process of rational discourse, rather than holding them precious. Otherwise I would not be interested in responding

    (for instance, in playing rhetorical power games whose ends are predetermined. If my process of what I come to

    believe were a pissing contest, I'd be limiting myself to monkey-level beliefs.). Do you share this intention with


    How is it we disagree only on perspective, and if so, what/how is that disagreement, then? It would be

    fortunate indeed if we agreed, but were just taking a different perspective, given the ground rule, given that it's

    a pain in the butt to let go of fundamental beliefs, and adjust your life accordingly.

    I fully expected a reply

    such as the one above, and am actually grateful for the opportunity to have multiple perspectives on what we all


    On one extreme are determinists, who say nothing is in our control (e.g., we do everything we do

    because of pheromone levels). At the other extreme are sort of "responsibility fundamentalists," or "volition

    fundamentalists", who think we are 100% responsible for everything all the time. Either extreme would be problematic

    as a human belief.

    Both perspectives are also plainly mistaken, unless you redefine the "responsibility" idea to

    make it mean something besides what it does in ordinary language. But that would be unjust and disingenuous, like a

    bait and switch on anyone listening to you, as well as yourself.

    This is another case where it can be productive

    to be wary of black and white thinking. We all do it. There is a third perspective, at least, that opens up a whole

    new world of complexity and understanding by comparison.

    In the final analysis we are not 100% responsible for

    our actions, in the way the word is typically used. There are always aspects and amounts that are out of our control

    at any given moment, and not only due to "random chance".

    Take for example the Viktor Frankl situation, (from

    Man's Search for Meaning) where we have our maximum, inviolable control, in being able to choose how we react in

    terms of our interpretation and perspective on a situation. Even there there are predetermined tendencies in every

    moment that "usurp our control" (shatter the illusion that the metaphor is literal) over the moment. We approach

    every situation with all kinds of baggage, presumptions, tendencies, "buttons" that will be pushed, cultural

    programming, and imperfections; any/all of which might influence our approach to the situation. Postmodernist and

    social constructionist philosophers, as well as psychologists, can be credited for these insights.

    Yes there were

    previous moments of choice which might have changed some of these factors. But such factors were present before as

    well. There is never a moment of pure choice. Life and people are fallible and imperfect compared to the

    mythic stories we tell of them.

    It is not a matter of something being either completely in our control or random.

    This would be more black and white thinking, by which I just mean there are other dimensions at play.

    BTW, this

    is coming from one of the staunch proponents of volition (loosely, "free will") within the field of psychology. My

    adviser pioneered that field of research, and I was on his prolific research team throughout my grad years. So keep

    in mind that I'd be more sympathetic to a "big responsibility" position than most psychologists. And if you're

    talking biologists, forget it.

    On the other hand, accepting "full" responsibility for your actions, living the

    myth, can be quite useful. You can become quite skilled at decision making under that assumption. The danger is to

    forget that it's a myth as well as an assumption. The same goes for those "holding us responsible", or "assigning


    I'm saying it would be of benefit for everyone to understand that, yeah, we "accept

    responsibility" for practical reasons, and work on our decision-making/ achievement skills, but know that no one is

    ever really fully, absolutely responsible.

    To me the challenge would be to attain a realistic and nuanced

    understanding of responsibility, while still accepting responsibility to the full reasonable extent.

    That would

    even be more useful than living the myth/metaphor of "Responsibility" as if it weren't mythic, as if it were a

    literal absolute, and as if the fact of it justified black/white thinking.

    Examples of radical, extreme,

    black/white, either/or thinking about responsibility might include, say, "either you're responsible or I am", "I'm

    completely reponsible", "you're entirely responsible", and "either you're responsible or you're not," as well as

    "I'm not responsible", "stuff happens", and "It's all your fault". This kind of reductionistic thinking in any

    direction is not without negative consequences.
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 10-14-2005 at 03:37 AM.
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  5. #5
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    Ground rules: No, I don't

    intend it to become a pissing match. Though it does look like you pointed that second post right at me since I am

    the one so fond of personal responsibility. No matter. Let me consider what you said and put together a reply.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  6. #6
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    I will presume we agree on the

    ground rule, as stated, then.

    Keep in mind that by the standards of psychology, philosophy (e.g, my strong

    existential leanings -- the "choice camp") and the sciences, I am also quite fond of personal responsibility. If I

    "aimed" the post at you (conversations you were involved in helped trigger it, but it's aimed at everybody who

    might be listening, including you, with the idea of being of benefit and thinking I see a need) it was as someone

    who is more of a potential ally in the world, in that respect, than you might know. You've certainly seen me fight

    quite vociferously against the other, deterministic extreme (e.g., the radical idea that pheromones determine

    everything about relationships, and choice determines nothing), which has been my usual role in the intellectual


    For what it's worth, these issues should actually strengthen the responsibility position in the final

    analysis, even though "responsibility absolutism/fundamentalism" will be out of the question, at least without

    redefining terms, or inventing new ones, that would let us be fundamentalistic, though possibly at the expense of

    abandoning ordinary English for our own private language and making it easier for others to be confused. (I'll be

    happy to expand on this if necessary.)
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 10-13-2005 at 04:08 PM.
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  7. #7
    WorldEater Icarus's Avatar
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    My god. Chat show level potted

    "...and from that egg, hatched a stone monkey!" (Newton)

  8. #8
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Icarus
    My god. Chat

    show level potted philosophy.
    You appear to believe yourself qualified to evaluate philosophical arguments,

    butthis comment is roughly the level of a frat boy pounding Heiniken at a sports bar. I'd be happy to listen to

    intelligent, constructive critical replies from anyone.

    Philosophical issues come up in the open discussion

    section; and it's better to take some of them to their own thread than to burden readers in the thread in which

    they arose.

    As I said, I make no pretense anyone will be interested in talking philosophy here, and don't mind

    if this thread is ignored/buried. But if not interested, please stay away, rather than act like a prepubescent


    I may not have any answers, but have hung around philosophy departments long enough to know I can talk

    philosophy with anyone. I wrote a doctoral dissertation in ethics. Sorry if that sounds egotistical -- I say that

    only for the benefit of anyone that might be inclined to contribute something, and wonders whether substantive

    conversation might come of it.
    DrSmellThis (creator of P H E R O S)

  9. #9
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    didn’t really want to participate in this conversation for my own reasons. However, much of what I believe, how I

    live has been misrepresented for reasons I don’t fully understand. Comments like black and white thinking are a

    misrepresentation and either prove a complete lack of understanding of my philosophy or intentional,

    misrepresentation of my beliefs. Statements comparing how I believe to what causes terrorists like Al Queda to exist

    are simply ridiculous and exhibit the same intolerance that leads to situations like terrorism and pogroms. Instead,

    my beliefs only are demanding towards me, only judge my own actions and demand complete acceptance of other’s

    beliefs. We each have our own path to walk, I walk mine and each of you walks yours. I do not ask or expect you to

    believe in mine yet I accept that yours may be equally valid. The only judgment my belief allows me to make is

    whether another person is doing harm to others. The only violence mine allows is defense.

    Probably the hardest part for most to accept is the belief in complete

    responsibility and maybe that is where the misunderstanding or lack of acceptance comes in. Like it or not,

    everything you do is because you decided to do it. If you decide to keep your body in shape it is because you made

    that choice. If you lie, cheat and steal you made the choice to do so in the expectation of full knowledge that

    there were potential consequences for your actions. If you go out partying with friends, you decided to do so and

    the resulting hangover is your fault. If you didn’t know the potential consequences for your actions it was your

    responsibility to learn what they were. To whine “I didn’t know” after the fact is merely escapism. If you didn’t

    know, you had an obligation to find out as much as possible before you acted. Of course, there are things you cannot

    know in advance, it then becomes your responsibility to change your course as soon as you learn the facts. Fact

    finding, learning is never fully completed and it is always up to you to do your best to learn as much as you can

    about anything you are involved in then to make decisions based on your own principles or ethics.

    Ethics are a whole topic into themselves. Your ethics are not mine and mine are

    not yours. How can I judge your ethics? There is no yardstick I can use other than my own life’s experiences. Since

    I do not have your experiences and training how can I judge why you did something? I can’t! All I can do is decide

    if I can accept your actions. I cannot say you are unethical because by your standards you may be the most ethical

    person around even though by my standards you are a crook. Since you are responsible for your own actions and the

    consequences of those actions, only you can decide the right and wrong of your actions. My only area of authority is

    whether or not I will accept your standards in my world. I do not condemn you; I condemn certain of your actions and

    judge each action on its own merits. Thus I can dislike a president and find merit in certain of his actions. His

    reasons are not something I can hope to know because I am not inside his head. If I claim I know the reasons for his

    actions it is only because I am applying my thought processes to another person’s behavior. That is obviously flawed

    thinking and more reflects the mind set of the accuser than of the accused.

    Harm to another person is a completely separate issue. If a person believes by their standards that

    stealing is right, how can you judge otherwise? Yet they harm another person when they steal. My beliefs say that it

    is wrong to harm another for any reason other than defense. You’ll notice that I leave the word self out of it.

    That’s because of another criterion, protecting those less able than me. If I intercede in a robbery it is because I

    am trying to prevent harm to another person, it is not self defense. Despite a person’s ethical belief that they can

    steal from another, they are also aware that there may be consequences for that action. If they suffer death or

    broken bones that is because they took that risk upon themselves.

    The claim has been made that I would abandon those less fortunate than me; allow the weaker to fall by

    the wayside. Any who have read my writings or who see my actions know better. The truth is that part of what I

    believe is that it is each and every person’s responsibility to help others whenever and wherever


    Is that black and white thinking or mental illness?

    It may be the former because it does not allow compromise of one’s own ethics nor does it allow excuses. It may be

    the later because mental illness is defined by society’s standards thus anybody not conforming to the normal

    processes and thoughts is by definition insane. Frankly, in my opinion the so called progressive way of thought

    where everything is negotiable and where condemning others not of your own beliefs is standard is part of the

    problem with our society. They are really no different from the ultra conservatives in the Christian right or from

    the church leaders who promoted the inquisitions several hundred years ago. They are simply restricted by social

    mores from using harsher methods to try to force others to conform to their beliefs. Have you ever noticed that

    those people spend a lot of their time trying to apply labels to others then condemning those labels? That’s sloppy

    thinking at best and is dishonest. A person is an individual and highly complex. Simple labels such as democrat,

    liberal, progressive, republican, conservative or libertarian are far too simplistic to describe the complexity of a

    human’s reasons for their actions. All that really does is mislead others and breed hatred because “THEY” are not

    like us, “THEY” believe differently. That is the oldest ploy in the world for polarizing a society and creating

    hatred. What does that tell us about those who use those tactics?

    High personal standards where a person’s word is their pledge and each takes the responsibility for

    what they do have fallen by the wayside and as a result our society has declined. There is no longer any such thing

    as personal responsibility or consequences. If you don’t like the fact that you are fat you can sue the place where

    you eat. If you harm yourself with a gun you can sue the gun dealer, if your child gets suspended for breaking

    school rules you can sue the school, if you get cancer from smoking sue the tobacco growers, if you don’t like the

    way an election turned out sue the state. It is never your own damned fault for being self indulgent or careless.

    That last one grates the most. We live in a democracy where the polls are meant to determine the will of the people.

    If they don’t win, these special interest groups go to the courts to usurp the will of the people. Democracy is

    great so long as it fits their beliefs, when it doesn’t they are going to try to force everybody to conform to what

    they decide is good for us. Where do they get that right? I didn’t give anybody the right to decide what is in my

    best interests.

    There’s going to be a lot of noise about how

    all this would harm society but that is a bootless argument. Look at it rationally. The decline in gun ownership and

    harsh prison conditions exactly corresponds to an increase in violent crime. The decline in harsh punishments in

    schools has correlated exactly to a decline in education and an increase in school violence despite and ever

    increasing school budget. The decline in education is resulting in a reduced standard of living and reduced ability

    to compete worldwide. It all ties together in a decline of our society. I fully expect to hear that my words are

    alarmist bullshit so I challenge each and every person to verify the validity of my statements for themselves. Don’t

    take my word for it, take responsibility for yourselves and look it up, see for yourselves instead of believing

    anybody. I imagine that most of you can do such research and plot the numbers for yourselves, the trend lines are

    truly frightening. I expect to hear about the injustice of the harsh criminal punishments. What is harsh about

    something any person who wants can avoid? What is harsh about something that a person knew fully well they could

    suffer for their actions? It was their choice to make and they did so with full knowledge that they could receive

    that punishment. It’s called personal responsibility and is an absolute necessity for social order. I also expect to

    see the environmental card played. Ask yourself, how can a truly self aware, responsible person do harm to their

    environment? Once again, it is a bootless argument.

    Where does

    all this lead? We, as a society, are under educated and over regulated. Why do we need a law that is redundant to

    another law that is unenforced? Why do we need a law to tell us we cannot or must wear perfume or shower? Sounds

    silly but both laws are on the books in this country. What we need is to better teach our children how to be

    responsible for themselves and to be a productive part of their society rather than expecting others to do for us.

    We, as parents have a responsibility to teach our children right and wrong instead of expecting the schools to do

    so. Then we need to teach them their obligations to their society. We need to hold each and every adult responsible

    for their actions and administer justice promptly in every case that it is appropriate. We need to stop trying to

    legislate morals and ethics and we need to stop expecting others to agree with our morals and


    The next thing I expect to hear is that my words are

    all well and good but can’t or won’t work. To this I say…BULLSHIT!!!! I have lived by the standards for 2/3 of my

    life, more than 30 years. I raised my children by those standards, I managed my corporate career and a department of

    nearly 100 people by those standards and now I manage a business by those standards. My children are healthy, happy

    and productive people. My personal life is a good one filled with love and laughter. My corporate career gave me a

    good living and numerous awards. My small business is making a substantial profit while paying my employees more

    than any of my competitors. My employee turnover is almost zero and we are all friends. I am well liked and

    respected in my community. What more could I ask from a life’s philosophy? As the saying goes ‘The proof’s in the

    pudding’. It works. One of the most rewarding things to happen in a long time was when my 18 year old daughter

    actually thanked me for the way I raised her. She told me that most kids her age are spoiled babies who have no clue

    how to work or do a good job. In my mind, that was worth every bit of the work through her 18 years of


    As a last word,

    I am not a democrat, a republican, a liberal or a conservative or any other political brand. Each philosophy has its

    strong points and its idiocies. In my opinion, party politics is pulling this country apart at the seams and needs

    to be abolished or more power given to the minor parties to make things less controlled by two very corrupt

    Last edited by belgareth; 11-06-2005 at 09:48 PM.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  10. #10
    Man of La Pancha
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    God is Santa Claus for


  11. #11
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    God is an excuse or a means of

    creating an excuse for people failing to take responsibility for themselves. Religion is a way of lying to

    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  12. #12
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by belgareth
    God is an

    excuse or a means of creating an excuse for people failing to take responsibility for themselves. Religion is a way

    of lying to oneself.
    The concept and hypothesis of "God" is indeed often used to shift some responsibility

    off of oneself.

    Whether God is just an excuse, or essentially and primarily an excuse, is another matter. I

    don't have the answer to this.

    But I think it's possible to reconcile some kind of belief in God with a

    realistic and courageous attitude toward responsibility. We only have so much control, power and freedom; but we can

    have what we can have.

    By assuming 100% control power and freedom, we might on average get closer to maximizing

    the actual freedom, power and control we achieve than the average person.

    But by acknowleding our limits fully,

    we might actually maximize the responsibility, freedom, control, and power we achieve. This takes the maximum

    amount of courage, but also maximizes humility and compassion.
    DrSmellThis (creator of P H E R O S)

  13. #13
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    If a belief in a supreme being

    is a person's path to unleashing the good inherent to ones soul then fine. However, religion, for all the positive

    influence it has exercised over civilization, it is more often the source of intolerance, hatred, attempts to take

    control of others and endless bloodshed and pain.

    In fact, no belief in a higher power is needed to unleash that

    which is inherent in all of us, the ability to do good for others. A heavenly reward at the end of life should not

    be the reason for having compassion for others. A simple recognition of the power we all hold in our hands and the

    understanding of how it should be used is sufficient reason.

    In my experience, those who do not know and grasp

    their own power or are frightened by the power others have to rule their own lives are the ones most eager to

    convince people that their way is right. Those who know the power they have over themselves are the most willing to

    allow others to go their own way. It takes far more courage to stand up and take full responsibility for everything

    you do than to disclaim that obligation. Religion is one of many means of disclaiming that obligation and

    responsibility. However, if it that is the path that gives a person a sense of fulfillment and encourages them to be

    kiind to those around them, its their path to choose. Only when their path takes them down the road of trying to

    control others or of harming others do I have any problem with it.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  14. #14
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    This is to respond to the long


    Post #9 by Belgareth reflects both a fundamental misunderstanding of philosophy, and of my participation

    in these conversations here. My previous attempts to address this misunderstanding directly were not understood or

    well-received by Belgareth, who -- and nothing personal is intended here -- has so far expressed no intention to try

    to understand this or other issues I have raised regarding responsibility. He is under no obligation to do so, but

    if at any moment he succeeds in doing so, I'll be happy to recognize it and move on.

    The position I have

    articulated has instead just been dismissed, while the issues I raised have simply been ignored. The focus was

    turned around to be about Belgareth's life and private beliefs. I guess that's the price you pay for trying to

    address issues at a certain level on a public forum.

    Once again, I am not questioning how Belgareth chooses

    to live.
    I'll try a metaphor. If a dog barks during a philosophical discussion, and I regard the dog's barks

    ("ruff, ruff") as inadequate to the specific task of philosophy we are engaged in, am I therefore necessarily

    questioning the way the dog chooses to live its life? No. I am saying "ruff ruff" is not adequate as normal English

    to address the question for other English speakers. It might be adequate according to the dog, and I am not going to

    argue with that. My complaint is also not about what the dog believes. The dog has a problem as a public

    philosopher. That is all. If the dog is successful at being a dog, does that mean it necessarily barks good

    philosophy? These are two different things.

    What I am saying is that the ways Belgareth talks about

    responsibility are misleading in a way that could cause problems for other humans, if they choose to adopt those

    words and concepts, as articulated here only, in the exact same way. Some of these problems are especially

    acute when applying these black and white concepts to public policy.

    This is not about Belgareth. It is not about

    understanding Belgareth or failing to understand Belgareth. It is about words and concepts articulated here as

    publically useful philosophy, and trying to use these words and concepts in the best way for lasting and reliable

    use by maximal others over time; for public policy, personal growth, raising a family, and whatever else we can use

    philosophical concepts for. Yes I am holding people responsible for their words. But Belgareth, the champion of

    responsibility, should have no complaint about being held responsibile in that way. I accept responsibility for

    trying to understand Belgareth's literal words only. I believe I have accepted that responsibility.

    The main

    problem comes from using the concepts/words "responsibility" and "choice" (or "freedom" and "power to create", while

    we're at it. It's all part of the same phenomenon of experiencing being human) in an absolutist, black and white

    fashion: Either your're responsibile or you're not. You choose to or you don't. That's all we need to know. The

    amount of responsibility and choice in every situation is absolutely 100%. It gets a score of one or zero, like

    binary code. You have absolute power to choose to behave any way you want to, and there is no excuse if you


    But thinking exactly like this, literally, according to these literal, absolute, black and white

    words, leads to a lack of compassion for others, if done sytematically throughout society. It also would tend lead

    to a lack of humility. It would lead to a misunderstanding of the human condition in general, and various other

    problems in living for people in general.

    Now once again, I am not saying Belgareth personally lacks compassion!

    He could be Buddha for all I know. I am also not saying that Belgareth, in his heart of hearts, thinks in a black

    and white manner. As I have said repeatedly in the past, I am only talking about words as typed in this forum. But I

    do have to say that every time those words have been typed here so far, they come out sounding black and white.

    Belgareth has in passing acknowledged exceptions to the black and white rule for mental illness, but to me those

    exceptions are a cop out, when you continue to talk about it as black and white, as in Belgareth post #9 above.

    (When you do something, you choose to. That's all there is to it, etc.).

    We are seeing something very similar

    to this with right wing thinking, as an excuse to justify all manners of callousness toward people in unfortunate

    situations: "It's their fault they are in that position. They could have chosen otherwise." "They made a choice and

    and must pay". They made that choice, and that's all we need to know, or care to know. If you're poor it's your

    fault. If you commit a crime it's your fault. If you're a drunk, it's your fault. That's all you need to know.

    This is a problem the neocons have, thinking in this manner. No, I'm not saying Belgareth is a neocon.


    belief that we always have 100% power to choose/create, 100% freedom, and 100% responsibility reflects a fundamental

    misunderstanding of the psychology of choice.

    For example, in ADD there are things that, the harder you try

    to do them, the less likely you are to actually do them.
    You can see this happen on a brain scan. But

    ADD, as with all mental illness, is a matter of degrees. We all have things like this happening.

    Another example

    is alcoholism. What alcohol affects is precisely the power to make choices. You can argue that a person should have

    known that when he chose to drink, should have known that was the risk, but that misses the point. In that moment,

    the power to choose is not 100%. And in every moment, there are things that make the power fall somewhat short of

    100%. If it's not one thing its another. Moreover, the very nature of being human and having a body in a physical

    world, along with all the imperfections that go along with this, prevent us from ever having absolute, 100%, black

    and white responsibility. There is a process by which we both form intentions to act, and then translate intentions

    into action. You can look closely, through a microscope at this process. It's not as if it either happens or it

    doesn't; that it only occurs in the same, perfect way, every time; or could. It's not as if the process is

    irrelevant. The pricesss also has many precursors and preconditions. WE don't choose in a vaccuum. Every moment of

    choice carries a vast array of baggage, history, cultural influences, physical influences, etc. Regarding knowing

    what you are choosing, the understandings that go into every moment of choice are selective and imperfect, for both

    systematic and arbitrary reasons. It's not as if you just should have known and understood, and either you

    understood or you didn't, and it was your fault if you didn't. Another factor in choice, reponsibility and freedom

    is human dependency and interdependency. In short, the human condition involves depending on others for achieving

    full humanity, even in areas of choice, responsibility and freedom. There's some humility for you. In order for me

    to achieve full responsibility, I have to acknowledge that I need help to do so.

    In psychology they have

    estimated the amount of control we have to do things by free will at about two thirds. That is a lot. We need to

    take all two thirds of that. But it is not 100%, and it is not black and white.

    Acknowledging the full contect,

    limits, and influences on human choice and responsibility is not to avoid responsibility. Quite the opposite! It is

    to give ourselves the conceptual tools we need to be all that we can be as humans; to achieve the fullest

    responsibility we are capable of.

    Lastly, I am not saying Belgareth thinks like a terrorist, though he tried, in

    a intellectually pubescent, school yard manner, to turn it around and say I was thinking like one, based on the

    false belief I was personally judging him or his life. I was only saying that black and white thinking, in general,

    is responsible for terrorism, and all other manners of destruction on the planet. If you engage in it, you are

    taking a risk. This is absolutely true. And yes, black and white thinking is like a mental illness, one that

    afflicts most all of us from time to time. We all engage in black and white thinking from time to time. But

    elimenating it is a tremendous opportunity for personal and societal growth. I would love to help people with this,

    but acknowledge that some people don't want help. Black and white thinking can be quite comforting in the short

    term, in a narrow world, since we can think (albeit arrogantly) we know the plain and simple truth about things, and

    feel like we make perfect sense of the world. Again, that does not mean I think anyone who ever thinks in a black

    and white manner is an arrogant person. Wow, all these disclaimers are getting tiring. I hope I don't have to

    repeat them every time I talk philosophy.

    I do not mean to be blunt, or enjoy it, but I feel it has been forced

    on me here.
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 11-13-2005 at 02:24 PM.
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  15. #15
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    Anybody who sees the difference

    here is welcome to pipe in. The simple fact is that there are thousands who believe and live by the same standards I

    have tried to express here. DST's thinly vieled insults aside, it works! Of those I know who believe and practice

    as I do, most are sucessful people who are also involved in some form of philanthropy. They don't just talk, these

    are people of action who do more than talk. They are people who take action rather than wait for others to do or say


    To more accurately state a private conversation that he once again unilaterally decided to bring into

    an open forum, I do not judge his beliefs and accept that they may be a good path for him, am pleased by that and

    wish him well along his path. It may also be the preferred path for many others and that's just fine too. I, in no

    way and at no time, judge any part of it other than whether or not a person is harming others or trying to convince

    others that their's is the only path.

    As I tried to explain over and over again, DST's characterization of my

    beliefs as black and white is an inaccurate label formed in his misunderstanding of my beliefs. That's fine, if he

    wants to believe that way and it's also fine if he wishes to propogate his dillussions about how I believe on a

    public forum. However, I reserve the right to correct his innaccurate statements at any time of my choosing.


    makes claims that imply my belief in some way stops a person from being compassionate yet anybody who has read my

    writings on this forum know I am a compassionate person who does everything he can to help others. My only

    requirement is they make an honest effort on their part. To paraphrase something from long ago, 'I give a hand but

    not a handout' and even that is not wholly true. There are a number of you on the forum now and in the past that I

    have done things for or made offers too with no expectation of a return. I do that often in my real life as well.

    Where is the lack of compassion in my actions? My beliefs require compassion for others as I explained to the good

    doc but he seems to have missed that.

    The comments about terrorists was almost comical in its interpretation.

    What is the motivating force behind a terrorist's actions? To force people to follow their beliefs through violence

    and bloodshed, right? Other than the bloodshed and violence, what is the difference? Both are attempting to force

    others to believe as they do without the option of selecting another path for themselves. The same intolerance for

    other's belief is there as well. It is shown in the constant insistance that no other path but their own is the

    right path and the ranting about all the things wrong with any other paths.

    Admittedly, I have only had a few

    semesters of philosophy in college. If that indicates a complete lack of understanding of philosophy then I guess I

    should plead guilty. From my point of view, the refusal to accept that there may be other schools of thought, some

    originating and practiced for over a thousand years before the great philosophers of Greece and Rome were born and

    continues to be practiced all over the world, is a narrow view of the world of philosophy.

    On the other hand, I

    have spent endless hours with teachers, still more hours in meditation, still more hours doing other things required

    of me to become what I believe. I am on a path and do not claim it is the only path but it is my path and I have

    followed it for much of my life. I do not claim it is any other person's path and do not ask that anybody else

    believe in my path. DST seems determined to convince others that it cannot work yet he doesn't understand even the

    first small pieces of it. I call that intolerance for another's ideas and beliefs. I ask you, who is guilty of

    black and white thinking here?

    I could go on and pick apart each of DST's misrepresentations of my beliefs and

    statements but won't as there is nothing to be gained from it. The primary question I ask myself is about

    acceptance. I accept each person's beliefs and encourage them to live by them. I respect any person who does so and

    don't spend my time telling others why it won't work. If it works for them, if they do not try to force their

    beliefs on others, if they accept other's differences and wish them well on their path, if they do no harm and

    endeavor to help others, I accept who and what they are. What is so wrong with that?

    In short, I told DSt that

    he did not understand me or my beliefs and had no right to judge me. He seems to believe otherwise. That is, of

    course, his privilage and I still wish him well along his life's path.

    Oh, as a last word directed specifically

    at DST: I, in no way meant to imply you were a terrorist in my earlier post. I just went back and re-read what I

    said to make sure of it. Like a question I asked you about property, you have misconstrued my words and taken

    offense at something that was harmless in intent. Nor was it specifically directed at you. Lighten up and stop

    attacking me! As for your comment about my posting my views, don't I have the same right to post an opinion as you

    do? Perhaps I and those who believe as I do view your views as dangerous.
    Last edited by belgareth; 11-13-2005 at 03:06 PM.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  16. #16
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    Once again, Belgareth

    stubbornly insists it's all about his life, path and personal, private beliefs; and again stubbornly ignores that

    no one is questioning those; or even attempting to represent those, whatsoever. This conversation is not all

    about him. And I cannot believe someone is actually trying to hold me reponsible for "mischaracterizing" their

    private beliefs, which I have never heard or sought to comment on. I had just got finished saying above, for the

    umpteenth time even, that what is black and white was the way it was expressed, and that I can't comment on private

    beliefs. This is an immature mind game.

    Once again Belgareth mistakes philosophical debate for personal

    attacking, and gets highly defensive, taking rational criticism of public ideas personally.

    Once again Belgareth

    mistakes debating philosophy for imposing beliefs on others like terrorists do; and stubbornly ignores that what I

    said was only that adopting absolutist characterizations of responsibility publically, as concepts, would and does

    result in negative consequences. That is not imposing beliefs, that is expressing a belief about the consequences of

    thinking in a specific way, based on words articulated in public.

    Once again Belgareth completely ignores a

    detailed analysis about responsibility, an analysis full of crucial issues, and even findings of psychological and

    neurological science.

    It's as if nothing one says about anything registers. Belgareth has a theme he likes to

    hit on, and that is what it will be. I fully support his right to do that. But we have to accept it is not really a

    conversation about anything. I honestly wish Belgareth well on his path too, and wish to support him. But that is

    neither here nor there.

    Belgareth claims that I somehow don't think he has a right to express his opinion. I

    have no idea where that silliness came from. But I will admit to thinking that, if someone doesn't want to, or

    can't, discuss philosophy rationally, and in earnest; I'd prefer they take their free expression to another

    thread, rather than the one created for this purpose.

    BTW, while I don't condone it from either of us,

    Belgareth sometimes unilaterally holds me accountable in public to things I have said in private conversations to

    him, such as repeatedly claiming in the forum that I said in private to him that I believe in raising taxes (despite

    my protests that this is not even what I said.) But as far as I know I have been commenting on what was said here

    publically in the forum -- in particular, the above long post (#9). Pretty much everything I have said here is

    demonstrably implicit in Belgareth's public posts, such as comments about choice of life paths (see post #9 above),

    which is the "example" Belgareth just tried to give.
    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 11-13-2005 at 05:42 PM.
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  17. #17
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    No Doc, I am simply responding

    to your repeated misrepresentation of my philosophy. No more and no less. You have been making the same black and

    white statements in reference to my beliefs for a while, have called it mental illness etc. What would you have me

    do when you make remarks like that? How about when you repeatedly misunderstand what I said and take offense at an

    innocent question or remark?

    You are the one who without understanding the philosophy I believe in keep telling

    me it won't work and saying it is dangerous. Perhaps I don't fully understand your philosophy, that's very

    likely. I am not telling you or anybody else it won't work, that beliefs such as you profess are mental illness.

    I've not once condemmed what you believe but you've done that with mine repeatedly.

    If you don't know where

    the comment comes from about unilaterally bringing up something from a private discussion maybe you should go back

    and read your own words. Isn't that what you were referring to in the second paragraph of post 14? The only place

    I didn't recieve your remarks well was in a private conversation by PM. Post 9 was an effort to clarify what I

    believe after you repeatedly misrepresented my beliefs in this thread and others. There was no anger expressed

    there, simply an effort at clarification something you kept misrepresenting. Once you stop misrepresenting what I

    say and believe I'll happily drop out of this thread even though you made an open invitation to any who wished to

    discuss philosophy. Perhaps I misunderstood your invitation?
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  18. #18
    Doctor of Scentology DrSmellThis's Avatar
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    ...Again claiming I criticise

    your actual, private beliefs! Unbelievable. No I haven't called your beliefs a mental illness, or made "black and

    white" statements about them. Or any statements about them.

    Your statements are sometimes black and

    white. Deal. When people do have black and white thinking, myself included, it is a problem in thinking. I

    have had that problem before. Have you never? If too pervasive, those problems add up to become a thought disorder.

    That is my psychological theory about a contemporary pandemic. It is not in the DSM-IV as a syndrome unto itself. I

    think it should be, under Axis II. Actually black and white thinking is already in the DSM-IV under Axis II as a

    symptom, for example, of Borderline Personality Disorder. Look it up. People who recognize and resist their own

    black and white thinking do not have to worry about having this syndrome. Nobody's perfect, last I checked.


    "innocent questions" often have implications you are in denial of (a responsibility issue), like a couple weeks ago

    when you asked if someone was against ownership, and denied that might be anything like asking whether they might

    believe in communism. The logic of the implication was clear, by definition; yet you will fight to the end of time

    denying it. This irrational stubbornness interferes in conversations here on the forum.

    I have things I do that

    aren't perfect too. I hope I can sometimes admit I am wrong, and even apologize, when confronted with something.

    Recently I emailed you an example of where I put my foot in my mouth on this very topic. I admitted my words were

    seriously flawed, and then clarified the belief underneath. Another time recently I apologized to you publically for

    something. I wish we both could do this. It can be kind of fun to admit you're wrong once you're used to

    it. Further, I will admit I sometimes get a little too uptight

    when people aggressively disagree, lock stock and barrel with me on something important, based on something I

    perceive as unfair, false and/or irrational. I have worked a lot on this fault, and am getting better. For example,

    in this case, I have confined myself to just describing the consequences of extreme and rigid views of

    responsibility, rather than try to keep anyone from believing what they want. You push my buttons, because you seem

    to like to disagree and debate whenever you can, in an aggressive manner. I have to work on not doing this too much

    myself, and try to be very careful when I disagree. Here too I think I've made progress.

    But sometimes I still

    have to fight, if the cause is important enough. And black and white thinking is really and truly destroying the

    world right now. When I see it from progressives ("hippiecrits", I call them) it annoys me just as much. Lefties can

    be very rigid. Mostly it affects the right wing (e.g., religious fundamentalists, judgements of good/evil,

    right/wrong, truth with a capital T), but affects us all. If it was gone from everyone, we'd all be much better

    off. It's not really a political thing, but it certainly affects politics.


    2, post 14, has nothing to do with your private email. You have repeatedly not received well my efforts to clarify

    what is happening in these conversations, as is the case right now.

    It's Bruce's forum. You are welcome in this

    thread, whether you discuss philosophy, or don't. I'd prefer you did, in a constructive manner.

    I don't

    believe I misrepresent your words, but am fully open to discovering your beliefs are different than your words. For

    example, here is what you just wrote in #9:
    Probably the hardest part for most

    to accept is the belief in complete responsibility and maybe that is where the misunderstanding or lack of

    acceptance comes in. Like it or not, everything you do is because you decided to do it. If you decide to keep your

    body in shape it is because you made that choice. If you lie, cheat and steal you made the choice to do so in the

    expectation of full knowledge that there were potential consequences for your actions. If you go out partying with

    friends, you decided to do so and the resulting hangover is your fault. If you didn’t know the potential

    consequences for your actions it was your responsibility to learn what they were. To whine “I didn’t know” after the

    fact is merely escapism. If you didn’t know, you had an obligation to find out as much as possible before you acted.

    Of course, there are things you cannot know in advance, it then becomes your responsibility to change your course as

    soon as you learn the facts.
    That is stated no differently than you ever have, when you have appeared to

    characterize it as a black and white matter. In the past you have even used the black and white term yourself to

    describe your own beliefs. If you want others to see it as anything but that, you have to put something else in the

    But in these words there is little room for any other

    factors, degrees, or grey areas.

    For example,

    you use the term, "full
    knowledge". Full means complete or perfect. It's

    clearly a black and white term. Although our actions by definition have consequences, we can't always know what the

    possible significant consequnces might be. We have theories, and various degrees of confidence in what the possible

    consequences might involve, in their countless aspects; what levels of risk and promises there might be. But our

    knowledge is never complete and perfect, and never can be at any moment.
    Even the last statement, the most flexible in the paragraph, is only flexible

    because it contradicts your own "full knowledge" statement. But even there, it still denies the fact that there can

    never be full and perfect understanding; and still paints responsibility as being a binary (1,0) phenomenon (either

    you are or you're not, and you are). That's not the way human psychology works.

    The whole paragraph is that

    way, especially given your other statements on responsibility and choice. I read this paragraph as saying

    whatever you do is only because you 100% freely chose to do it. (above I began to detail many

    problems with these unsupported claims, and they are empirical claims, about the psychology of human beings). That

    is the most obvious, straighforward interpretation of your paragraph, but it is also being interpreted as black and

    white. I just go by what you say repeatedly, in this and many other places.

    Speaking of responsibility, if your

    belief underneath your words isn't black and white, it is not the readers' responsibility to see that; when

    the statement itself is black and white. If you would correct your statement no one would hold it against you. But

    your pattern is to make a statement, then deny responsibility for it. Then it becomes others' fault for

    mischaracterizing you.
    I'm not the

    only one you've done this to recently. I believe it was the draft thread where someone else was recently subjected

    to this "I have to waste all my time correcting others' misunderstandings of me" treatment. It's never, "I am

    partly reponsible for the misunderstandings I create." (Notice I'm not laying it all on any one person in a black

    and white manner, saying you are 100% responsibile. We share a responsibility for mutal understanding, and depend on

    each other to achieve it.) So from what I know of you, your ability to take responsibility is not black and white,

    or 100% either. Welcome to the club.

    I'm not saying the following is the case, but it's possible to have an

    extreme, severe view of responsibility that makes it harder to accept responsibility sometimes. That would be

    similar to someone who is extremely opposed to sexual behaviors, in a black and white manner, having sexual

    perversions. You do state you are very hard on yourself, and this kind of consequence, broadly speaking, would make

    sense in that light. If I'm too hard on myself when I make mistakes, I'd find it harder to admit when I was wrong,

    not that you ever have a hard time admitting you're wrong.
    I am OK with being wrong with anything I just speculated about, since I cannot

    know what you experience.


    compassion starts with oneself. In short, I have suggested that a nuanced view of human choice, action and

    responsibility leads not only to greater compassion; but also humility; and even greater responsibility itself.

    Last edited by DrSmellThis; 11-13-2005 at 09:17 PM.
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  19. #19
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    Religion is control.


    thought about the topic of religion for a long time now, and after taking psychology courses, reading books about

    human behavior and the mind, studying evolutionary psychology, and watching world events in politics, economics,

    religion, and sociology, I have determined to the best of my knowledge why religion was created in the first place.

    I have never spoken about this outside of two conversations I have had (one being with SexyRedHead, actually...I

    hope she is not reading this) because the view is kind of depressing and a sad view of human existence, but I feel

    that since this is a philosophical thread that I would throw in a few thoughts (it would take forever to get

    everything written down) on what I think is going on in the minds and hearts of the human race.


    If you are deeply religious and may either doubt your beliefs or want to kill me as a result of this post, I suggest

    that you stop reading now. Your continuation to read this post means that you have agreed to the terms that you may

    not like or agree with what you read because it is different than your philosophy. Also, please note that my

    criticisms will be referring to Christian beliefs mostly because that is what I know from years of Methodist and

    Catholic teachings. If I knew more details on other religions, I would work them in more.

    Are you

    still reading? Alright...

    My realization began while recalling a Disney movie during a religious argument.

    The movie, All Dogs Go to Heaven, reminded me of one of the many holes in religion. "What happens to animals

    when they die?" It's not exactly something they talk about extensively. As the movie title infers, some people say

    that all animals go to heaven. Others say that nothing happens because they're not human. The rationalizations are

    mostly that they either get a free ride or that nothing happens to them because they do not have the higher

    intellect to understand religion and therefore cannot be accountable to a higher power for their actions. These

    explanations along with many other explanations for holes in religious teachings led me down the path of actually

    understanding how religion came to be and why all of these rules were made up. Therefore, I will have to go back to

    the beginning...

    Assuming Darwin's theory is true (I have to use this introduction because of the apparent

    "debate" that it's not), we evolved from animals. In studying the brain, you see evidence of this evolution through

    different species. If you walk through the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, you can trace the

    evolution of life from one-celled organisms to the most advanced cell structures in the human race. More evolved

    species maintain the evidence of their predecessors, causing scientists to coin names for parts of our own anatomy

    such as the "reptilian brain". When humans evolved, they developed the most advanced brain functionality of all

    living creatures and acquired the tool that is responsible for the existence of religion: the ability to reason and

    contemplate one's own existence.

    "I think, therefore I am," is one of the greatest psychology quotes of all

    time. Why is it so special? It is what differentiates us from all other life. We are consciously aware that we exist

    and have the mental capacity to ask the most powerful question in the history of the universe: "Why?" with the most

    prominent question being "Why do I exist?" As strange as it might seem, the word "Why?" sums up the strongest

    evolution of humans from other species. Many types of life can communicate, have emotions, think, learn, adapt, and

    reproduce. What is ironic is that while other species don't need to be able to reason because they don't have the

    capacity to reason. Reasoning may give several species the ability to predict things better: for example, if animals

    understood why certain natural disasters occured, they could learn to avoid them. Ironically, most animals know when

    things are coming from keen senses (ever hear the story about how no animals were harmed in the zoo because they ran

    to safe places), and therefore they don't know why but they do know when and what. (Note: Maybe animals are able to

    reason and just can't communicate it to us. )

    If an animal cannot ask, "Why?" he cannot answer "Because..."

    Therefore, the existence of religion was impossible before human beings because nobody was asking the question and

    therefore there was no need or ability to have an answer. As we look back at the beginning of the human race, you

    have these people with highly-evolved brains who are able to understand more than just what happens, when things

    happen, and how they happen, but why things happen.

    Reasoning is the greatest gift and most horrible curse ever

    bestowed upon the human race. To quote Spider-Man, "With great power comes great responsibility." The power

    to reason brings the responsibility to use it to keep you alive. Reason has been the #1 cause of life and the #1

    cause of death in the human race. It has the power to keep you alive or destroy you, and it has time and time again.

    How many people have killed themselves because they could not find a reason to live? How many people have stayed

    alive because they understood the properties of chemistry or physics and used them to cure themselves of diseases,

    heal wounds, or protect themselves from danger? The answer to both of those questions is, "Many."

    Why ask

    why? Control. When you search for the cause of an event, you eventually classify the events into two categories:

    Within your countrol and outside of your control. Ironically quoting AA meetings (ironic because of its religious

    language), "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and

    the wisdom to know the difference." This quote is amazing because it summarizes the foundation of religion.


    I must explain this, because I know when I initially wrote "Religion is control," you thought I was a

    conspiracy theorist or a Marxist who thought that the people in power were trying to control the masses. This is not

    what I mean. What I am saying is that religion was invented as a means of paradoxically taking control and giving it

    away at the same time. I am sure that this makes no sense, so I will explain in a story.

    The earliest signs of

    religion are in the form of ancient rituals performed during extremely good and extremely bad periods in human life.

    Think about the reasons people performed religious ceremonies: deaths, droughts, natural disasters, marriages (i.e.

    the earliest sexual-emotional bonding rituals), and births. Some of these things you have control over, some of them

    you do not, and some of them you have partial control over. The earliest forms of established polytheism, what types

    of gods were there? The rain god, the sun god, the god of thunder and lighting, the god of wind, the god of health,

    the god of death, the god of birth/firtility, and other gods related to these same events. When it did not rain for

    months and crops were dying, was it within the person's control to make it rain? No. They could move somewhere else

    and look for food, but they could not make it rain. When a baby was born, was it in a person's control to keep the

    baby alive? Somewhat. A person could feed it and nurture it, but it could still die of unknown or uncontrollable


    Now, you may already know what I am about to suggest. These people, who were beginning to ask why things

    happen and learning what was in their control, found that there were several things in their control and millions of

    things outside of their control. Therefore, for the peace of mind (after all, the responsibility of reasoning can be

    overbearing) of the person, they had to believe that someone, somewhere was pulling the strings. If they did not

    have control, maybe someone else did. If someone else did have control, it was no one they could see. How could they

    take that uncontrollable event and feel like it was somehow controllable? How could they take that slightly

    controllable event, control what they know they can and then try by some other means to control what they don't

    understand? On the other hand, how could they take an event that they might be able to control with a lot of work

    but don't want to have the power to do (e.g. move if they like where they are or kill someone in order to stay

    alive)? Humans, as egocentric beings that personify everything, had a thought. If there is someone pulling the

    strings that they could not see but might be able to see them, maybe if they somehow did something to recognize that

    being's/force's power, the being would view them favorably and therefore do whatever action that person desired.

    Thus, the idea of gods were born.

    Years later, people in certain regions began to believe that the idea of

    several dieties existing was slightly irrational. I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that this probably

    occurred around the time that humans' societies switched from bands of settlers where everyone had pretty equal

    roles in keeping everyone alive to where one human decided that he wanted to have control over many people and began

    to form hierarchies where one person ruled over other people. I have no basis for my guess besides the fact that it

    sounds like the emergence of kings, despots, etc. would have many people believing that if one person could rule

    over hundreds, thousands, or millions of people, that one god must be higher than other gods. Note that in Greek and

    Roman mythology, there were several gods (polytheism) but one highest god that ruled (e.g. Zeus, Jupiter).

    Eventually, someone must have thought that if one god was the most powerful, then why do you need other gods (note

    the good old "Why?" fittingly popping up)? Therefore, God was created (monotheism).

    Stepping back to the idea

    expressed in the paragraph before previous one, religion was created on the basis of control. Either humans wanted

    to have control over something they did not understand or could not control, or they wanted something they could not

    control to save them from the things that they could control but did not think they could do or did not want to do

    (e.g. "Man, I don't want to do this. Please, God, get me out of this situation."). On the other side of the

    (slightly) uncontrollable event, there is the appreciation for the uncontrollable event going in their favor or for

    the controllable event that might have went wrong to have gone right. Thus, the punch line of a joke about the

    reasons people talk to God usually goes like this: "(God to person): You only talk to me when you want something or

    are thanking me for something. Why don't you just stop to say hello once in a while?"

    Everything branches out

    from here, and people who began to claim religious authority started turning their personal beliefs into gospel.

    This is good; that is bad. Don't do this; do that instead. Some of these things are universal morals, such as

    thoughts on stealing, killing, lying, and being incestuous (all of these are open to interpretation (e.g. can you

    steal if you need it to survive, can you lie if it doesn't hurt anyone, can you sleep with your distant relative or

    your cousin), although incest between parents and children is universally despised around the world), and others are

    more random and probably based on one's personal beliefs or experiences (e.g. cows are holy, don't eat meat on

    Friday, sex is a sin).

    There is one important state of mind that is critical in religion that I did not

    mention: hope. Hope is an essential part of humanity and religion. Religion is the idealogical manifestation of

    hope. Everyone hopes that things happen the way they want them to happen, and that hope is expressed in the form of

    prayer or other rituals that people perform to try to make things go their way. Their is essentially no difference

    between prayer and wearing the same socks every game during a winning streak. Just as one person hopes that prayer

    will somehow make fate, luck, or God favor them, another person may hope that wearing the same socks will bring that

    same favor that they had in previous games. Hope is the human response to carrying the great responsibility of

    reason. By understanding why things happen and understanding that one cannot control all that happens, people

    inherently hope that despite the fact that they do not have complete (or any) control over it, things will go their


    The three (of many) reasons that religion cannot be removed from existence include:

    1. Humans cannot

    accept helplessness - No matter what you believe, if you are about to die and your life is out of your control, you

    will begin to hope that somehow things get better, and without a strong will you will inevitably begin to wish,

    pray, or hope that some cosmic/unseen/spiritual force saves you from that situation. You cannot accept the fact that

    you sit their helpless and are unable to do anything. Some things are out of your hands, and you take solace when

    you believe that maybe someone pulls the strings and will favor your wishes. I am even guilty of calling out in my

    head for someone to please help me if I am helpless.

    2. Humans have highly-evolved pattern recognition abilities

    and notice coincidences - As long as humans have the instinct to recognize patterns to understand how/why things

    happen, they will always notice coincidences that seem so remarkable that they cannot possibly have happened

    randomly. This is why there is the "debate" between the theory of evolution and "intelligent design". The very

    thought of intelligent design is based on the fact that there are just too many coincidences for it to have been

    done randomly. If you think about it, though, say the odds of life being created at any given moment to be

    1/1,000,000,000,000. The universe is much older than that when measured by moments (we'll define moments as seconds

    for the technical people out there), and on any given day, at any given moment, some chemical reaction could have

    caused a continuous, "living" reaction that we now know as a cell. If you think that something is impossible and it

    happens, that is just reality crushing your beliefs. If your friend is about to be killed by a loan shark and that

    guy tragically dies in a car accident 10 minutes before he gives the hit, it could be explained by the fact that:

    a. he was a bad guy and someone killed him by crashing into him
    b. he'd be alive if he would just have worn his

    seat belt

    or hundreds of other reasons. The point is that just because two things happen close together or

    things that you can't quite explain or control happen doesn't mean that someone is controlling the space-time

    continuum; it could, in fact, be just a random occurance. No matter what the odds, trillions of things are happening

    every nanosecond, and odds are that strange things will occur very frequently at the same time as other strange

    things. If you think about it the other way around, millions of uncoincidental things happen ever minute to you, and

    you don't notice them because they are not coincidental. They are just random, and you accept them as random. So

    why can one not accept coincidences as random or as a result of a controllable or likely occurrance?

    3. Humans

    have an inherent need to explain everything - This is mostly an expansion of the above two, but even if you can't

    control it or understand it, you have to be able to explain it. Thousands of years ago, a god controlled fire. Now,

    we can make fire whenever we want. We know how fire works. God controlled the weather and "miracles", which are just

    extreme and unlikely events. The politically correct/secular know the former as "Mother Nature", which is just

    another way to assign an unexplainable occurrance to a false entity. Nobody believes that Mother Nature actually

    exists, they just use it as a personification of weather patterns. So why do people go on believing that God exists

    rather than just personifying unexplained events into one deity known as "God"?

    4. Humans inherently need order

    and accountability in a civilized world - In order to prevent complete anarchy and chaos, people need to learn to

    live and survive together in harmony. Therefore, one needs to have order in their lives and be accountable for his

    or her actions. Without order, there is chaos. Without accountability, there is anarchy. Therefore, religion is

    another way to organize people to agree on a certain set of rules and beliefs that people can agree on and hold

    everyone accountable to those standards. This is one of the many reasons why people kill each other over it so

    often. If one person doesn't believe what another peson does, there is conflict. If someone does not follow the

    same rules as another, the person will inevitably break one of the other person's rules because of those

    differences and create conflict. Religion is an established way to instill morals into people and justify punishment

    when those morals are are not followed. Secular law has replaced religion in many respects, but this is why the law

    is based on religion because religion existed long before any government or legal system. Also, the law is a balance

    of a group of society's belief system; religion is the idealistic view of the belief system of members of that


    Religion is control. God did not create humans; humans created God. If someone one day proved

    that a higher power exists, it was probably spontaneously created from the unified faith of millions of people that

    it does exist. The great irony is that everyone believes that there is a higher power controlling the

    uncontrollable, but the reason why they believe that is so that they feel that they have some sort of control over

    the controller. Just like a democracy has elections to keep the public feeling that they have power over the ones in

    power, religious beliefs are held so that people believe that if they do the right thing (e.g. pray, eat right, help

    those in need, sacrifice a virgin), they have control over the controller of the uncontrollable and thus, control

    what they cannot control.

    I will, however, concede to one undeniable fact: if everyone believes something

    exists, doesn't it, in fact, exist? After all, if everyone believes OJ killed his wife, does it not become truth

    rather than belief even though there is no record to prove it? As I said, God exists only because everyone believes

    God exists. Our entire civilized world is based on belief (e.g. the US dollar is only valuable because everyone

    believes it is valuable; George W. Bush is only president because enough people (with enough power) believe he is

    the leader of this country), so why should this be any different?

    "For there is nothing either good or bad, but

    thinking makes it so."

    ---William Shakespear, Hamlet

    Maybe he should have added "right or wrong" to

    the list.

  20. #20
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    You still aren't

    getting it but I don't know how else to explain it to you.

    First, my innocent questions and statements are

    exactly that. There was no intent behind the question about ownership other than a sincere wish to understand your

    thinking. You misinterpreted it. I'm sorry that you did but I was only and exclusively asking you to clarify

    something you said that I did not understand. Nothing more or less. I was attempting to open a dialog, no more. Any

    other value or meaning you assign to it is because you have decided to assign that value, not me. There is nothing

    irrational or stubborn about a simple truth whether you choose to believe that truth or not.

    All of us are

    imperfect but we all approach it differently. The beliefs I live by include taking responsibility for each and every

    thing we do and require us to try to be the very best we can be at everything we do. In my belief system that cannot

    be achieved without the recognition of absolute reponsibility for each of our actions. That in now way implies or is

    meant to imply perfection. It is an attempt to achieve something beyond what we are today. I don't expect you to

    understand that any more than I expect to understand your point of view because each of us is a unique person and

    our thoughts are unique to each of us. That's a basic tenent of my beliefs. That they disagree with what psychology

    teaches doesn't bother me too much. Maybe it works for me and those like me because we don't know enough to know

    it won't work. I don't know.

    As for not recieving well what is going on in these conversations there is a

    perceptual difference here. You seem to completely misunderstand everything I say about it. At the same time you

    seem to percieve that I either misunderstand or refuse to understand what you are saying. We may both be correct or

    we may both be wrong. I'm not trying to prove anything, all I am doing is trying to offer another point of view

    from yours. We see the world differently, maybe our minds just work differently. Again, I don't know. However, you

    have said a number of things here that could only be understood from my point of view as insulting, such as the

    childish remarks. I honestly have made no attempt to insult you, I could do far better than anything so trivial as

    name calling. I don't wish to insult you but don't appreciate insulting remarks made about or towards me.


    understood you to make what I percieved as uninformed remarks about the belief system I practice, and it is a

    coherent, internally consistant system. Some of them sounded like attempts on your part to be insulting. To correct

    what I percieved as your lack of understanding and misrepresentation of how I believe I took the time to type out an

    explanation covering a relevent portion of my beliefs. You appeared to summararily dismiss it and state I don't

    understand philosophy. From your perspective, I might not because I don't understand your philosophy any better

    than you understand mine. I am not completely uneducated in that area, as I tried to make clear. I think it likely

    that you have not studied in the same areas I have. That's fine but it does not give you the right to utterly

    dismiss a complete field of philosophy as irrelevent or dangerous, not when you view it with a series of

    perconceptions and misconceptions. You have shown time and again that you are not understanding even the simplist

    statements I make but insist on placing your interpretation on even innocent questions. I see this as a fundamental

    block to communicating.

    Even the paragraph that you copied you do not understand. It seems plain to me what I

    said and what it means. Is this an indication of a fundamental difference in the way we think? I admit that learning

    to live by this belief system has required some drastic changes in the way I see the world. Maybe I am expecting too

    much of you without your having spent the time studying in this area that I have.

    Whatever the cause, Doc, I

    practice a demanding belief that has made me a better person. It in no way tolerates callousness or harm to others.

    It demands I do some very hard things and make some sacrifices in my life. It is a very satisfying and rewarding way

    to live once you start down that path, even if I cannot explain it well enough for others to understand it. I had no

    intentions of even discussing it in this thread until you made repeated remarks that from my perspective were

    understood to be insulting and demeaning misrepresentations of how I believe and live. If you take insult from

    anything I said her or previously I am sorry. No insult has been meant at any time, only an apparently vain attempt

    to make clear a small facet of my belief system.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

  21. #21
    Moderator belgareth's Avatar
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    To answer a couple

    of your statements...

    As I understand the christian belief, animals do not have souls so would not go to heaven

    or anywhere else. Once they die, they are gone.

    Buddist, on the other hand believe in reincarnation, that our

    souls progress through various stages of creation learning things along the way. Thus an ant has a soul the same as

    a man does. Once we achive a certain level of knowledge we continue onto another existance.

    Still others believe

    an animal has a soul or spirit equal to or greater than our own. In many cases this seems to be a communal soul in

    which all members of a given species are part of. In many cases a hunter must perform certain rituals prior to

    hunting then give a prayer of thanks and ask forgiveness once successful. There are many beliefs beside our

    predominantly christian belief here in the west.

    I do agree that the christian religion and many others past and

    present are about control. In the case of civilization it has had a tremendous influence both positive and negative.

    I think any religion or belief system based on guilt would be like that.

    You make a good point about our needing

    to explain everything. I wonder at what point in the development of the mind that begins to occur. Do dogs see us as

    gods or just really strange dogs? How about more developed creatures, say the chimpanzee or gorilla? It becomes a

    very complex question.

    On point 4, accountability is a tricky question. Must we be acountable to a higher

    authority? Can man be trained to be accountable to himself? I believe he can and that anarchy would not be the

    result. Rather that we could learn to work towards mutual best interests without the need for an external threat. It

    would require a complete revision of the way we see things and respond to one another but I do not believe

    government, as it exists today, is either necessarry or even in our best interests. There is only conflict because

    we are taught that way. Why can't we be taught to not only tolerate and accept each other's difference but to make

    the best of it and grow as a result?

    Yes, man did create god, or so I believe. But I also believe there is no

    harm in a belief of a higher power. If that is what helps people to live in their world, be happy and help one

    another, then it's a good thing. It's when we try to force any belief system down another's throat that we start

    creating evil. When a basic good is turned to control and guilt it is made evil. When violence and coercion of any

    sort is used to make people do as another believes they should, it is always wrong no matter how good the

    intentions. There are certain areas where you end up choosing between potential evils but that is what our

    intelligence is for.

    I disagree that every one believes something, some higher power exists. There are those

    that don't and seem completely happy with it. They are hard to mark because most won't talk about their beliefs

    for fear that they will be misunderstood. They have good reason for their concern.
    To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

    Thomas Jefferson

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